The following is an opinion piece submitted by a guest writer.
I recognize that the substance abuse problem in Punjab is very real, it is something which is threatening and killing the people of Punjab. Glut is a short film documenting the drug and alcohol epidemic in Punjab. The film was created by N7films, a Mumbai based group which made this video as, “A non commercial student effort”. N7films must be either amazing connected or have very deep pockets since they are able to travel from Mumbai to Punjab to create a 30 min film that features Bollywood actors, an editor of a national magazine, political MP’s, a United Nations representative, and more. This video is also filmed with high quality cameras that are by no means low end. This film examines the substance abuse problem of Punjab, looking at the issue from the drug dealer to the government.
As I watched this film I began to question its perspective and analysis. My examination of this film presented me with many issues which brought into question the integrity of this film and its intentions. There exists a clear political bias in this film, begging the question of whether Gult was created to bring awareness to the plight of Punjab, or rather to push the agenda of a specific political party.
Firstly, I found the film’s choice of speakers questionable. The video features two main speakers, the first is an actor/activist, Rahul Bose. A quick wikipedia search presents his activist work- none of it which deals with the Punjabi substance abuse epidemic. Throughout the video he provides commentary and opinions on the Punjab drug/alcohol problem yet never sources any of his information.
The second main speaker is, Vijay Simha, Editor-at-Large for Tehelka, an Indian Weekly Magazine. He speaks from Delhi, and all his experience in regards to drugs pertain to his life in Delhi. Similarly to Rahul Bose, he provide opinions and reasons for the Punjab substance problem but never sources his information. His status as editor of a national magazine does not qualify him as an expert of the Punjab drug problem.
Both speakers have no credentials pertaining to drugs, enforcement, socio- economic situation of Punjab, development, etc. – yet they provide many “expert” opinions on the reasons and cause of drug/substance abuse problems in Punjab.
Secondly the documentary puts the majority of the blame of the Punjab substance problem on the state government. I agree that the current SAD/BJP state government is corrupt , oppresses and exploits Punjab thorough a vareity of levels (drug, farmer exploitation, alcohol, etc). Yet I also believe that many of the problems faced in Punjab today, including the substance abuse epidemic, are a result of the economic fallout following the green revolution, the effects of genocide on the Punjabi people, and the Central Government policies which bankrupt and place Punjabi farmers in poverty. On the last point I refer specifically to the Central government’s purchase of Punjabi produce and grain at unfair prices, the economic coercion they place on Punjabi farmers to grow environmentally unsustainable crops (rice), and the Central government’s control of Punjabi water.
This video makes no reference to any State genocide/attack/oppression in Punjab, but continually refers to “Sikh insurgency” as one of the “Great hurdles” that the Punjabi people have overcome. Sikh insurgency was not a hurdle that was overcome- but instead a community based movement that was quashed through draconian and heavy handed tactics employed by the Congress party. This genocide has damaged the pysche of our community, crippled us economically, destroyed families, and more. Many argue that the impact of decades of genocide and suppression of the Sikh people has driven many Punjabis to a life of drugs and alcohol, fuelling the current substance abuse epidemic in Punjab.
This brings me to my third critique of this video. It clearly has a bias in support of the Congress party. The video interviews Ravneet Singh Bittu, MP and president of Punjab youth congress. Bittu emphasizes the failures of the Punjab state in fighting the drug problem by allowing the influx of drugs in Punjab due to poor border control. I agree that the current government in Punjab is more than complacent in regards to the substance abuse problem, but Bittu also makes reference to the greater resources available in the Central government to tackle the drug issue. This point I find ludicrous since the border security force- which is failing to police the drug problem in Punjab- is under Central government control.
Bittu asserts that the drug problem in Punjab results from Pakistan’s efforts to break down the “first line of defence” for India, Punjab. He places all the blame on state government and Pakistan, while presenting the Central Government’s as a benign entity. Bittu’s point is false, and out of touch with the history of Punjab. Since the creation of India, it has been the Central government which has continually worked to break down Punjab. This is apparent through the oppressive economic polices it places on Punjab and its continual acts of terror against the Punjabi people. The Central Government invaded and killed thousands of Sikhs in June 1984, and supported a campaign of disappearances and killings in Punjab that took the lives of thousands.
The drug problem in Punjab is growing. Based on my interactions with fellow Sikhs and Punjabis, whenever the drug problem in Punjab is mentioned, traditionally people have placed the blame both on the Punjab state government, along with the Central Government. I believe that this video is trying to exploit the Punjab drug problem and shift people’s focus away from the central government (and the congress party) and present the Punjab state government and Pakistan as the sole root of this problem plaguing Punjab.
This video tells only a half truth. It correctly identifies the many socio-economic problems (poverty, lack of jobs, eduction, etc) which influence drug abuse. It also correctly identifies the Punjab State as enabling and creating an environment for the drug/substance abuse problem to flourish. Yet the documentary fails to present any influence that the Central government and the congress party has on the substance abuse problem in Punjabi. The Central government planted the seeds of substance abuse in Punjab in its genocide upon the Sikh people, through its unfair policies towards Punjabi farmers, and through its promotion of the green revolution, which had disastrous effects on the Punjabi people.
This video indicts only some of perpetrators of the substance abuse epidemic in Punjab, while keeping the hands of the major player, the Central Government, clean.